New national survey values views of students, parents & educators

Mar 8, 2012 by

Joe Nathan, PhD and Director Center for School Change Macalester College

A new national “Met Life”/Harris Interactive Poll of students, parents, educators and community leaders contains both surprising and expected results.  I think it’s a model because it values the views of each group.  Individual schools can use the questions that are asked with educators, parents and students, and compare results with the nation.

My single strongest recommendation to readers is to take a look at the 130 page study yourself.  That’s because you may have different conclusions about what’s most important,.  Met Life also provides copies on line of their past surveys, going back to 1984. You can find their studies on-line at

www.metlife.com/about/corporate-profile/citizenship/metlife-foundation/metlife-survey-of-the-american-teacher.html?WT.mc_id=vu1101

Met Life’s press release about the study highlights two key findings.

 

  • Today’s students report that their parents are more engaged than did students in 1988.  Last year, 64% of students reported that they talk to their parents about school every day.  That’s up from 40% who reported daily conversations in 1988.  Over the same period, the number of students reporting that their parents visit their school at least once a month has almost tripled, from 16% to 46%.   Both talking with youngsters about what’s happening, and visiting the school, are ways to encourage young people.

These are positive changes. I would not have expected such large increases.  But they show that many parents are hearing the message about the importance of being involved in their youngster’s education.

  • Teacher job satisfaction has dropped eighteen points from 2008, to the lowest levels in more than twenty years.  The number of “very satisfied” teachers has declined from 62% in 2008 to 44% last year.  The number of teachers who feel that their job is not secure has increased from eight percent in 2006 to 34% in 2011.  Seventy-six percent of teachers report that their school’s budget decreased during the last year.  Sixty-six percent report they were layoffs of teachers or other staff in the last year. Thirty-six percent report there were reductions or eliminations of programs in art and music last year.

Many parents and students also are worried. While 34% of teachers feel their job is not secure, “62%   of   parents   and   54%   of   students   worry   about   the   parents␣  losing  or  not  being  able  to  find  a  job.”  Seventy-two percent of parents and sixty-five percent of students “worry about their family not having enough money for the things they need.”

The report urges greater collaboration among different groups.  It cites the value of buildings where schools and community groups share space, making more effective and efficient use of funds.  I’ll be writing more about this idea in future columns.

There is much more in the report, which is why I encourage you to read it. Many schools already survey faculty, families and students.   I think the best use of the report would be for schools to conduct similar surveys, using at least some of the Met Life questions, and then share results.

By itself, a survey does not improve anything.  But it can help identify strengths and shortcomings.  A survey also can help identify progress and priorities.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, recently received the “Upton Sinclair” award from a national education website, www.educationviews.org   Reactions welcome, jnathan@macalester.edu

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